Costume National’s choice of Juliette & The Licks to front their 08 campaign underlines the stylistic flair and fashion nous of rock and pop’s most visually exciting female performer of the late Noughties.
And, in return, Ennio Capasa’s C’N’C Costume National pret-a-porter line benefits immeasurably by hooking up with sometime actress and these days full-time rocker Juliette Lewis and her band.
The seminal punk t-shirt – the love/hate list entitled You’re gonna wake up one morning and know which side of the bed you’ve been lying on! – has been revived.
The original was worn by the Sex Pistols and created by their manager Malcolm McLaren (with input from friend Gerry Goldstein and future manager of The Clash Bernie Rhodes). A delibarately divisive account of contemporary British culture, it was sold at McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s shop Sex at 430 King’s Road from November 1974; one side laid waste to sacred cows from Bryan Ferry and Vogue to Rod Stewart and Biba, while the other praised then-cult figures such as Bob Marley, Iggy Pop and “Kutie Jones & his Sex Pistols”.
When a fashionista as astute as Shop At Maison Bertaux‘s Max Karie starts referencing a long-lost look you know that something is in the air. And that something is the most underrated collaboration in David Bowie‘s long history of associations with designers: the Let’s Dance look created with opera costume supremo Peter J.Hall.
//Karie evokes some Serious Moonlight / Photo by the fabulous Sarah Lee//
Much has been written – not least by THE LOOK – of Bowie’s work with fashion players over the years – from Freddie Buretti and Kansai Yamamoto to McQueen, Hedi Slimane and Keanan Duffty – but it’s only now that the visual impact of his 1983 “comeback” Serious Moonlight tour is being appreciated.
At the time, Bowie’s all-out return to commercial form with Let’s Dance bemused, since he openly acknowledged the stylistic influence of the very people who held him on high – the New Romantics.
How dare our favourite alienated extra-terrestrial style leader prove to be so prosaic as to pinch ideas from a bunch of fans and fashion students?
As showcased at the Milton Keynes Bowl, the canary yellow hair and powder blue suit, braces and trilby increased the suspicion that our man had fallen to earth. But hindsight has proved that, stylistically at least, Bowie deliberately set out to once again outstrip his audience’s expectations. The look which accompanied the promotion of Let’s Dance around the world can now be seen for what it was: theatrical costumery at its best.
Bowie encountered Peter J.Hall’s work in two very different musical contexts in the space of a few weeks in 1982: the New York musical Zoot Suit and the Met’s presentation of La Boheme. “I tracked him down and he got very excited by the idea because he’d never worked in the rock arena before,” Bowie says in Chet Flippo’s book of the tour, Serious Moonlight.
With instructions to create costumes to suit band individuals – guitarist Carlos Alomar wore a sarong and silk jacket in emulation of an Asian princeling – Hall came up with this series of drawings, described as “brilliant” by Bowie.
“He chose all the materials and came to see how everything would look under our lighting. The thing with stage costumes is they look really silly offstage. Like they’d fall apart. Put it onstage under lights and it looks good.”
Having already used some of the pioneers of the post-punk movement in the 1980 clip for Ashes To Ashes, Bowie kept his acute antennae active.
“The costuming thing was a parody, a slight parody on all the New Romantics, these bands, my musical children,” he laughed. “Oh God, I thought it would be fun to dress everybody up. I thought it might be nice to look a bit like Singapore in the 50s.”
Since Serious Moonlight, Hall has never returned to rock, though his reputation as one of the world’s leading designers for opera has been sealed by his four decade-long residency at The Dallas Opera and work everywhere from the Royal Shakespeare Company and La Scala to Covent Garden and The Met with designs worn by such Dames as Kiri Te Kanawa, Joan Sutherland, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Elizabeth Taylor as well as Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.
//Peter J. Hall//
For those of us with less high-falutin’ musical palates, Hall occupies a unique position in the life of rock’s most fashion forward icon, one which enabled David Bowie to make his greatest stylistic statement of the 80s.
Well, Semi Precious Weapons just got themselves a new fan – among last night’s crowd at Death Disco teeming to witness the second night of the band’s blitz on London was Kate Moss, seen here after the show with frontman Justin Tranter.
La Moss – in floor length fluffy black coat with SPW tee underneath – had met lead singer Justin Tranter before, but never seen the band live. Moss has also DJed with SPW manager BP Fallon at his club Death Disco New York along with DD mainman Alan McGee.
//Belowsky vibes up Notting Hill//
Last night SPW were introduced by the charming ranting poet Belowsky and delivered on their glam-metal promise, with frontman Justin Alter-ed and all Fetty-ed up in front of an audience including fans who had travelled from the US, Ireland, France and Scandinavia.
//Tranter gives it up/photo:Caz///
Among those watching, dancing and taking part were Weaponette Platinum Ann, one of the stars of the band’s Magnetic Baby clip:
You can download SPW’s new album We Love You absolutely FREE here and catch them in all their satin and tat in the following metropolitan areas over the next week or so:
Jan 25: The Queen Is Dead,Soho.
Jan 27: The Old Blue Last, Shoreditch.
Jan 28: Fleche d’Or , rue de Bagnolet.
Feb 2: The R Bar, Lower East Side.
The fashion world is abuzz with the imminent rebirth of the Ossie Clark brand under the wing of WGSN mogul Marc Worth at London Fashion Week.
Backed by investors Amery Capital, it’s clear Worth is steering young designer (and, to some, shock appointee) Avsh Alom Gur in the direction of luxury, reflecting the languid, 20s and 30s-influenced aspects of the original designer’s work.
//Gur: Shock appointee//
This seems likely, given Gur’s previous experience at Donna Karan, Roberto Cavalli, Chloé and Nicole Farhi, and is underlined by his description of his work as “feminine, effortless, flamboyant.
These were certainly qualities to be found in the sublime designs of the master – just take a gander at examples from arguably the greatest Ossie archive, held by C20 Vintage Fashion).
What THE LOOK really wants to know about Ossie Clark 08 is: Will it rock?
//Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell, Notting Hill early 70s//
As Clark’s partner, muse and fabric designer Celia Birtwell (who is not involved in this latest relaunch) says in THE LOOK: “Ossie’s known as a feminine designer but everyone forgets he also came up with really hard-looking rock-y clothes. We had leather bike jackets, like the ones Brando wore in The Wild One, in a lot of different colours and materials. They were absolutely beautiful.”
//Ossie snakeskin hotpants (c) C20 Vintage//
And it’s true, Clark was as rock & roll as they come. His shows were the first to use models dancing and whooping it up to contemporary music (in this case spun by underground figures such as DJ Jeff Dexter and T.Rex’s manager Tony Howard).
“The shows were devastating and very rock business,” says fellow designer Antony Price.
“The models were stoned on the catwalk in these amazing outfits. He wore eccentric, fabulous clothes himself, at the centre of that whole scene in Ladbroke Grove with people like Miss Hockney floating around stoned in blue-silver Rivieras.”
Clark had long mixed in music and art circles – David Hockney was one of his Royal College Of Art contemporaries, as was designer Zandra Rhodes, and an early girlfriend was Jenny Dearden -“the ultimate ’60s rock chick with long blond hair and purple crushed-velvet trouser suit” according to Birtwell.
//Ossie snakeskin vest (c) C20 Vintage//
Both a fan and an intimate of the rock aristocracy, Clark had attended The Beatles’ 1964 gig at the Hollywood Bowl as a personal guest of Brian Epstein. In his life, there were musical connections every which way; Lindsey Corner, who worked at King’s Road shop Quorum (where Clark’s career took off), was the long-term girlfriend of Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett.Barrett was later to be infatuated with another Quorum employee, “Silly” Gilly Staples, while, for a spell, Quorum’s van driver was the man who replaced Barrett in Pink Floyd, guitarist Dave Gilmour.
Designer Anna Sui has said of Clark: “He dressed the woman we all wanted to be: the rock star’s girlfriend.”
//Every inch the rock star//
Meanwhile, Birtwell’s favourite photograph of Clark dates from his heyday in July 1970 in which he looks every inch the pop star. “I love that photo,” says Birtwell. “It really sums Ossie up.”
//Sketch for tour jumpsuit (c) V&A//
For THE LOOK’s money, Ossie reached the heights of rock fashion with his incredible design for the adorned jumpsuits worn by Mick Jagger on the Rolling Stones’ notorious debauched “STP” tour around the US in 1972 to promote their greatest album, the wasted and majestic Exile On Main Street.
Revealing, louche and overtly sexual, there were 10 jumpsuits in various shades and styles owned by Jagger, who wears a sequined stretch velour version (which unpopped down the front) for the Stones’ performance at Madison Square Garden that year, as caught by ace rock photographer Bob Gruen.
//Bob Gruen shot from Madison Square Garden, 72//
It’s sad to note that this period coincided with the pinnacle of Clark’s personal and business fortunes; unable to keep a tight rein on his financial affairs and plagued by relationship, drug and drink problems, Clark’s life soon spiralled out of control and his talents were only just being reappraised when he was murdered by his psychotic lover in 1996.
For the full story of Ossie Clark’s wild life and tragic demise, see Chapter 15 of THE LOOK.
This spring Celia Birtwell delivers her “pop story” as part of her successful range for Topshop while the new Ossie Clark label is keeping tightlipped until February 10.
This week’s assault on London by Brooklyn badboys of glam Semi Precious Weapons (“The most important band in America” – Alan McGee, “The next big thing” – Perez Hilton) affords an opportunity to explore their fashion connections, which go ever which way but loose.
Not only are they managed by the legendary viber, DJ and photographer BP Fallon (whose many achievements include the fantastic cover of Led Zep‘s colossal Physical Graffiti) but front-person and mascara-smeared lovedoll Justin Tranter is an accomplished and acclaimed jewellry designer who sells his exquisite work through the store which styles the band, Brooklyn boutique Alter.
//SPW live in NY. Pic: Caz Facey//
Tommy Cole and Roy Caires – who met at fashion school in Boston and are also the design team behind hilariously-titled vintage label This Old Thing? – run Alter in the grand tradition of great independent British fashion retail outlets; inventive and discerning without recourse to gimmickry.
//Justin Tranter (left) and Tommy Cole caught talking by Caz//
As a result Alter is streets ahead of NYC’s tiresome and overly-expensive “vintage” scene while the store’s blog is a constant source of delight – they have the good taste to name a section The Look (in which Alter create “outfits” for browsing customers out of current stock in the manner of The Face fashion spreads from the early 80s).
//Photo courtesy Style Canteen//
Justin’s jewellry label Fetty Of Brooklyn is tough-but-tender and very rock & roll; individual creations are even given song title names: “Shot Through The Heart, “Love Bites”, “Lizzie’s Love” and “Butcher’s Wife”. Also stocked by Barney’s, Fetty is available for purchase online here.
With appearances this week at such London hotspots as McGee’s club-nights Death Disco and God Save The Queen, as well as a guerilla gig at Le Fleche D’Or in Paris, Justin and the rest of his Semi Precious Weapons will be playing tracks from their “brilliant and kunty” (their favourite word) new album We Love You, which is executive produced by Tony Visconti.Naturally SPW’s online shop features pendants, eyeliner, mascara and “fucking gorgeous” lipgloss alongside the more usual hoodies and tees.
A screening of the Led Zeppelin flick The Song Remains The Same during BBC4’s Pop Britannia season revealed much about the band’s singular look; in the live sequences even meat-and-potatoes drummer John Bonham is wearing a fancy black tee bearing a silver foil decoration a la Wonder Workshop, while bassist John Paul Jones sports a pageboy haircut and an amazing Billy Bowers jacket complete with accoutrements including red cushioned hearts (see right below).
As frontman Robert Plant ploughed his particular stylistic furrow with leonine mane, super-tight faded denims and Japonaise blouses (all the better to display his lithe physique), it was Jimmy Page’s dandified presence which betrayed a rich grounding in the male fashion explosion of the 60s.A crucial element in Jimmy’s take on style and design was his friendship with Paul Reeves, then a fashion designer and these days one of the country’s leading 19th and 20th century furniture and artefact dealers.
The pair remain extremely close; Paul provided exclusive shots for THE LOOK of some of the classic clothes designs which Jimmy has retained in his collection.
Paul met Jimmy when the latter was in the Yardbirds in 1966, and soon the greatest guitarist of his generation was wearing shirts and jackets produced by Paul and partner Pete Sutch under their imprint Sam Pig In Love.
The label was also a favourite of Jimi Hendrix, whose Sam Pig shirt was auctioned for thousands by Christie’s a couple of years back.
//The Hendrix Sam Pig In Love shirt auctioned by Christie’s//
“They were pretty individual because I was using odd fabrics,” says Reeves. “Sometimes there’d be very short runs or even just one shirt, which maybe Jimmy would have.”Reeves’ business in particular and 60s fashion in general was changed forever in 1967 when he created six Sam Pig In Love kaftans made from Indian bedspreads purchased at long–gone Kensington department store Pettit’s.
“They were full-length, with Nehru collars and half-belts at the back,” says Reeves.“I took them to Emmerton & Lambert in Chelsea Antiques Market and all six were snapped up within half an hour; Mick Jagger and George Harrison bought one each. I decided to shorten them and went on to sell thousands when everyone else got into them.”
// Jimmy Page’s shirt designed by Paul Reeves, 1966//
Reeves launched new company Alkasura Wholesale in 1968, and Page remained a loyal customer; the pair sparked off each other sartorially. Both, for example, commissioned buckled snakeskin boots from the legendary 60s shoemaker Costas of Tooting, inspired by the attire of a romantic figure in early 20th century illustrator Kay Nielson’s book East Of the Sun West Of The Moon. Page’s are now part of the V&A collection.
In March Reeves is curating The Best Of British, a major exhibition and auction of 19th and 20th century design in conjunction with Sotheby’s. Notable contributions include furniture from another of Paul’s close friends, musician, actor, Spandau Ballet founder and avid collector Gary Kemp.
Page, meanwhile, has contributed the magnificent Burne-Jones tapestry The Quest of the Holy Grail: The Achievement, testament if need be to one of the most enduring friendships in pop and rock fashion.
The ubiquity of the American Apparel-driven skin-tight wet-look “Vegas” pants prompts THE LOOK to feature this exclusive memory-jolt from Anna Chen – writer, broadcaster, performer (as Madam Miaow), all-round Wonder Woman – about the time she ordered of a PVC catsuit with matching thigh-high boots and armpit-length gloves from Sex at 430 Kings Road .
//Moss (with former paramour Pete Doherty) in PVC leggings by Les Chiffoniers at Glastonbury//
Last year Kate Moss sealed the arrival of the 80s leggings when she wore a pair at Glastonbury by Leena Similu of Les Chiffoniers, who also works with Juliette Lewis for stage outfits for her hard-workin’ performances with band The Licks.
//Lewis in her’s PVC Vegas pants with K. Osborne//
But in the mid-70s skintight PVC was brought into fashion from the fetish world by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, as Anna recalls:
“I was also one of the kiddies who slunk around Sex lusting after the clobber and clearly remember Vivienne sitting in the shop in pink latex stockings and fluffy mohair jumper. I also remember little Joe Corre in his uniform after a hard day at school – now look at him!
“With earnings from a Saturday job I finally saved up and got Vivienne to measure me up and have her team make the suit. I was still at school; it came to more than £100, including the boots which you could not get anywhere else.
“I used to wear it to go shopping, not just special occasions. When I wore it in St Ives, people thought I was, ahem, eccentric – until punk exploded all over the nation and they realised something was happening up in The Big Smoke.
“What was great about Vivienne was that she took pride in her creations. She’d step back and admire. She was so much more than just a shopkeeper even then. Kind but also scary, if you know what I mean.
//Westwood in rare shot from photo-session in Sex, wearing her “condom catsuit” – in flesh-colored rubber, not PVC//
“She said she wanted to enter me in the Alternative Miss World but I declined due to impending exams. What a plonkerette!”
Anna still has the suit, though apparently it’s in a state of semi-disintegration. Her friend, the late photographer Bob Carlos Clarke, shot her in it for an album cover, Vicious But Fair by long forgotten 70s band Streetwalkers.
//Anna in her Sex creation photographed by BCC//
“That pic was our joke,” says Anna. “Bob said it was a portrait of me outside my council flats being screamed at by my mother!”
Partnered with electro musician George Demure, Laura Lees brings a special mélange of music and art to embroidered fashion, as emphasised by her recent show for S/S 08 collection Femme Fatale. As models sashayed, Demure MCed and sang with back-up from Lola of punk-funkers Spektrum.
The soundtrack combined Demure originals with the Beach Boys’ Help Me Rhonda, THE LOOK club-night fave Always In the Kitchen At Parties by Jona Lewie and Christine’s Tune (Devil In Disguise) by the Flying Burrito Bros.
“All my collections are inspired by music; it’s a massive influence on me, always has been,” says Laura, who was an artist before entering the fashion world via commissions for her “graffiti embroidery” from Luella Bartley, Mrs Jones and Giles Deacon.
The collection which marked her entrée into London Fashion Week a couple of years back, Western Day Of The Dead, was inspired by Gram Parsons (whose Flying Burrito Brothers sported the intricately embroidered suits of Nudie “The Rodeo Tailor” Cohn).
//Gram Parsons (top left) with the Burritos in Nudie Cohn embroidered suits//
Having supplied customised guitar straps for The Strokes and created a tour jacket for THE LOOK contributor and Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, Laura has also designed the cover of a Lemon Jelly album and created Demure’s stagewear.
//Demure’s shirtback by Laura Lees//
In the fine tradition of many of the musical and design partnerships explored in THE LOOK, Laura and George’s is a deeply creative exchange.
//George Demure & The Demurettes//
“George and I influence each other on a daily basis,” says Laura. “When I was working into the wee small hours on the last show, George was in his studio next door, keeping me company. The track he wrote one evening had the same energy as the dress I was making and was the natural choice for the show’s finale. How creepy is that?!”
Following the recent post on South Paradiso Leather, THE LOOK presents an exclusive on how Paradiso mainman Romulus (formerly Joel) Von Stezelberger launched his amazing clothing range.
Only last week Romulus was a guest on the best radio show in the world, Jonesy’s Jukebox on Indie 103.1FM, hosted by major Paradiso customer, Sex Pistol Steve Jones.
Here, Romulus tells how his life was irrevocably changed one rainy San Francisco day eight years back, not long after he had first come across examples of the hand-tooled leatherwork of East West Musical Instrument Co, whose incredible stage and streetwear was worn by a range of artists in the 70s, including Elvis and Janis Joplin.
Not that Romulus’ motivation has ever been money (he once gave away a whole bunch of original EW to goodwill stores) as evinced by his tale told here: “I was planning to go to a flea market early one morning. I got up, leaving behind my sleeping girl. It was pouring outside. I stood there looking at the cold rain, and back at the bed and that nice warm girl, and made my decision. I climbed right back in and cuddled up with Sleeping Beauty, only to be disturbed by a voice inside me which repeated: ‘Today you will find one.’
“I knew this was no delusion. It could only mean that I would find one of the rare ones. So I got up again, splashed water on my face, and called a taxi. On the way to the flea market, the driver kept me entertained with a story about being robbed at knifepoint. As I stepped out into the dumping rain, he asked me, ‘What are you looking for, anyway?’ and I replied, ‘You know, vintage guitars, amps, vintage Levi’s, Hawaiian shirts, East West jackets…’
The driver stopped me: ‘You mean East West Musical Instrument Co?'”
“Incredibly, it turned out that his wife had worked at East West for years and still had some pieces lying around.
“I gave him my number, got theirs, and got out,” says Romulus. “I was so excited that I couldn’t even look around the flea market. I sat in the back of a friend’s van and waited until noon to call her and was amazed when she told me that, among a few others, she had a prototype design for a jacket which was never produced.
“She’d made it for her sister, who she described as a ‘garden hippie’, a girl who did not want to wear the really flashy East West stuff. So she’d created a simple jacket in dark green suede, with very, very intricately cut and appliqué-d dragons of silver, olive green and cranberry leather twisting and twining around the collar and the cuffs.”
Romulus say that by this time he was close to tears. “This jacket was absolutely stunning, a masterpiece. I convinced her to sell it to me, and became the owner of a one-of-a-kind East West jacket, one no one had ever seen before.
“Such things simply don’t ever happen to anyone ever, unless there is some sort of fate at work. I took that jacket back to my live/work space and hung it up on the wall. I rolled a joint, went to the store for a nice tall bottle of Chimay, came home and sat on the floor in front of the jacket, in reverent awe at this majestic sight. I felt myself literally gazing into another world, a real rock & roll paradise, built by the hands of the East West Gods, but now neglected and forgotten.
“I looked into the window of this jacket and felt myself being called into this place, a magic kingdom that was waiting for a new king to come and continue what the East West Kings had left behind. I knew it was my calling, to become this new king.
“After that day my whole life shifted gears. I quit my design company and started to put all my energy into collecting these great works of art, while thinking of ways I could make leather art myself. It was as if the East West Spirit came to me through the Dragon jacket and guided me to my true destiny.”
THE LOOK is today named one of the Top Ten best fashion books by British newspaper The Independent. Described as an “entertaining chronicle of the relationship between music and clothes from Elvis Presley to Pete Doherty” by fashion editor Carola Long, THE LOOK lines up alongside such great books as Dior: 60 Years Of Style, Balenciaga Paris, and Rare Bird Of Fashion, the story of the clothing collection and style of textile house founder Iris Apfel. Read the rest of this entry »
ABC: Acerbic, bewitching, charming; Anita Pallenberg is all these things and more. Her innate style, fashion-savviness and earthy sexuality brought European sophistication to Swinging London and turned it on its head.
Gawky gamins and dolly-birds melted into insignificance in the presence of the impressive 21-year-old who arrived on the scene having already studied graphic design in her native Rome, assisted Vogue photographer Gianni Penati and modelled in Paris.
Nobody’s pet, her relationships with Brian Jones and Keith Richards added to her allure, as did her appearances in such epoch-defining movies as Barbarella and Performance.
All the while her natural grace and style were accentuated by effortless merging of vintage pieces with the work of such giants as Ossie Clark and the crowd around Granny Takes A Trip. Through the 70s to this day, Anita embodies rock & roll chic – much emulated, never bettered.
The conversation below focused on the King’s Road in 1967 for a piece for Mojo magazine. Not that Anita was remotely interested in dwelling on the past; she was buzzed about a visit to Karl Lagerfeld in Paris the next day, her interest in photography, the bargains to be found in charity shops, how the High Street chains are Carnaby Street reincarnated, and her thoughts on launching a new collection based on the MA show from her studies at Saint Martins in the 90s.
A couple of months later Anita and her friend Anna Sui participated in THE LOOK’s rock & roll event at the Port Eliot LitFest; it was an honour to give her a vintage Vive le Rock t, which, of course, she wore with customary élan.
She says that one of these nights she’ll DJ at a LOOK club-night. Having seen her move in person (after all it was she who taught Mick Jagger to salsa and mambo) we can’t wait!
//Anita at Port Eliot Lit Fest in 2008. Photo: THE LOOK//
So, where were you in 67?
I was living all over the place, sometimes in hotels with Keith, but I was hardly in London, because I was working a lot. That was my big year as an actress. I was making Barbarella in Rome, and then my German film (Volker Schlondorff’s A Degree Of Murder, for which Pallenberg’s former partner Brian Jones contributed the score).
Where did you shop for clothes?
We’d go to places like Emmerton & Lambert in the Antiques Market, Hung On You and Granny’s. I wasn’t into Mary Quant; she was too middle of the road, and that mod, op-art thing wasn’t really for me. And Biba was too big. I wasn’t so into that very English look. In Italy we’d always had salsa, the mamba, all those Latin dances which gave me a different feel for things, so my style was fedoras, belts, little 20s jackets, lace that I’d collected. If I wore mini-skirts I’d have them made by Granny’s. We’d try on clothes and have a joint in the back. Granny’s was very small, just two rooms, so everyone knew each other.
How did you feel when the “peasant look” (the rock & roll gypsy style created by Pallenberg’s combination of antique clothing and scarves with handmade belts and boots) was revived a couple of years ago by Sienna Miller et al?
I just felt: ‘Where we you were all those year ago?!’ It all seemed a little late. I was always obsessed with clothes, but of a particular sort. I’d modelled in Paris in 63, 64 and the first time I was paid I went straight out and bought a snakeskin Marlon Brando-style motorcycle jacket in the Champs-Elysees. The second time I bought the second-hand red fox fur coat which is in Performance. I’d wear that to modelling jobs with just my underwear, boots and a bag because you couldn’t leave your clothes lying around. The other models would steal them!
You didn’t mind wearing fur?
I had a ratty fake mink coat I wore to a gig by Hendrix somewhere on Chelsea Embankment. I went with (art dealer and member of the Stones inner circle) Robert Fraser. I couldn’t tell Keith; he wouldn’t have liked it at all. As we left Robert, gentleman that he was, picked up my coat from the cloakroom. I wore it for a couple of days and thought it was a bit tight before I realised he’d picked up the wrong coat, a real mink!
What was it like going back to college (Pallenberg studied textiles at Central Saint Martins in the early 90s)?
I loved it. One of my favourite fabrics is devore (printed velvet and satin) and so I did my collection for my finals in that. It’s really hard work because the process is so intense but I loved it. There’s a Michael Cooper photograph of Marianne (Faithfull) in a devore dress, which she probably nicked from me! We used to nick from each other all the time because they were all one-off pieces.
What was (60s designer) Ossie Clark like?
He was a nasty piece of work, a troublemaker. If he came to Cheyne Walk, he’d be so unbearable we had to throw him out. And he was like that till the end. He was backstage at a Stones concert a couple of years before he died (in 1996, murdered by his psychotic lover Diego Cogolato) and he was so loud, unpleasant and arrogant we had to throw him out again!
So what didn’t you like about the scene?
I remember walking down the Kings Road one time and everybody seemed to be on acid. There were kids running around with no shoes on their feet. I’m Italian; the last thing you’d do is go barefoot. Shoes are a status symbol, the first thing you get. Everybody in Rome walks around discussing shoes. I had my boots made for me back home, so I thought it was very weird.
So you weren’t really a hippie then?
No. Definitely not. Even though I was away in America for much of the 70s, when punk came along and Vivienne (Westwood) and Malcolm (McLaren) were making those wonderful rubber clothes I felt much more in tune with them.
With a foreword by Manolo Blahnik, Peter Schlesinger’s Checkered Past is a unique snapshot of a largely undocumented collision of art, fashion and music.
Published a couple of years back, Checkered Past is ripe for reappraisal in the light of designer Antony Price’s return to off-the-peg menswear in November this year via our new fashion label THE LOOK PRESENTS at Topman.
All will be revealed in the coming weeks; suffice to say Antony’s new range of suits and evening/party wear will make for a glam and very rock & roll autumn in 08. Meanwhile, read all about Antony’s work with Roxy Music, Duran Duran, David Bowie and Mick Jagger in Chapter 17 of THE LOOK.
Antony, who has recently been working with Daphne Guinness for her range at Dover Street Market, has influenced the likes of Christopher Kane and his appearance in Checkered Past confirms his place as one of the favoured designers of the 70s art/fashion milieu grouped collectively under the title “Them” by style commentator Peter York.
These pop culture-fixated pre-punk precursors are also covered in THE LOOK; they rejected hippie and prog in favour of novelty, retro and post-modernist style and design, hanging out everywhere from Glyndebourne to Biba’s Rainbow Room, listening to Ferry, Bowie, Kilburn & The High Roads and reggae while wearing clothes from Ossie Clark (Schlesinger is wearing an Ossie snakeskin biker jacket on the book cover), Zandra Rhodes, Miss Mouse, Pamla Motown, Mr Freedom, Swanky Modes, Acme Attractions, Howie and Zapata (where Blahnik was employed), and, of course, Antony Price.
As David Hockney’s erstwhile partner (their relationship breakdown is examined in Jack Hazan‘s brilliant “Them” movie A Bigger Splash), Schlesinger was at the heart of this scene, and by toting his camera around, compiles in Checkered Past a unique record of this exciting slice of London life. The images are lent acuity by Schlesinger’s relative youth and objectivity; he’d arrived in grey London fresh from California in the late 60s.
Among the highlights of his book are encounters between Hockney and Cecil Beaton (surely this shot is the very personification of dandyism?); Mick Jagger in a long djelaba in Morocco; portraits of Ossie Clark, Celia Birtwell, Bianca Jagger and Andy Warhol; Ferry, Price and author/photographer Eric Boman having a right old knees-up; and the amazing Amanda Lear letting her hair fly.
Chronologically, the book’s last image is this unblinking portrayal of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s Sex shop frontage; a portent of things to come and an end to the essential innocence – for all the bitching, drugs, hard-partying and break-ups – of Them.
“A group who take a dim view of much Them-ness are the people who run Sex,” wrote York in Harpers & Queen. “The Sex people hate retro and seem perfectly sincere about it.”
However, at THE LOOK’s Clash Culture event last year York – pictured here with designer Mikel Rosen – quipped: “Them never actually went away. They just became Us.”
Too true. While THE LOOK PRESENTS prepares to bring Antony Price to a fresh generation of male peacocks, Celia Birtwell is going great guns at Topshop and Marc Worth is soon to unveil the new Ossie Clark label. Meanwhile, at Dover Street Market these days you’ll find such ultra-Thems as sculptor Andrew Logan, artist Duggie Fields and designer Zandra Rhodes.
Blondes In The Basement is the title of this great short from Shop At Maison Bertaux’s Madame Pippa Brooks, based around a shoot she styled for photographer Constantin last week.
Set in a dank basement to the strains of The Dress by Blonde Redhead, Pippa and her friends Alex, Gwen and Johanna are seen having a bit of a cavort in some great items – see if you can spot any of the following:
Laura Ashley dresses from Golborne Road’s premier vintage emporium Rellik;
Bodymap numbers from the archive of the supreme Stevie Stewart;
A yellow top and grey mini-dress from Eley Kishimoto’s S/S 08 range;
A purple dress by Deborah & Claire, whose shop in Beauchamp Place in the late 60s also sold flowery, puff-sleeved shirts with long sleeves to the likes of Cream.
Here’s a Getty Images shot of D&C looking very groovy:
Stevie, who has worked with Pippa and her partner Max Karie realising clothes for their various Soho shops as well as their Shopgirl brand, also contributed some of her new knitwear, including the bonnet worn by Alex.
While we’re mentioning Ms Stewart it was great to see this clip of her 80s label with David Holah, Bodymap, and their joyful participation (to the amazing track After The Rainbow) in 1985’s Fashion Aid, as highlighted by Susie Bubble last week:
Fashion Aid is covered in Chapter 26 of THE LOOK: among those giving it some for Bodymap are Leigh Bowery, Boy George, Helen Terry and Alannah Currie of the Thompson Twins.
Bodymap sadly ground to a halt in the early 90s, having been confronted with the gamut of problems encountered by British street fashion at the time, as well as having been emulated out of existence (King’s Road shop Boy London is only one of those who successfully translated the formula for popular consumption).
Yet, today, the Bodymap spirit lives on, not just with tributes from the high-end likes of Cacherel and Louis Vuitton but also in the broader appeal of Stevie Stewart’s work for such clients as Kylie Minogue, as commissioned by Minogue’s creative director and Bodymap fan William Baker.
Among Stewart’s contributions to the Kylie cannon are the jersey paneled catsuits with silk waist cinchers studded with Swarovski crystals. The white version appeared in the Kylie fashion exhibition, while the singing budgie also wore this fantastic French beat-inspired version in black on tour.
Stewart’s place at the cutting edge remains undiminished, designing, consulting, directing ads and set-designing, not least for old spar Michael Clark. And it’s great to report she has maintained the Bodymap archive, as evinced by this photo-shoot for V Magazine styled by Tabitha Simmons and shot by Craig McDean.Not only is it way beyond time Bodymap got it’s props, it looks like it may well happen. And not before time, if you know what we mean.
The news that Paul Simonon (The Clash founder and more recently member of The Good The Bad & The Queen) is unveiling a new collection of paintings provides an opportunity to appraise the bass-player’s standing as an abiding icon of rock & roll style.
Simonon not only possessed the haunted good looks, perfect spiky top (or slicked back quiff) and lean frame for the punk look, but also an ineffable and highly photogenic cool.
//The Clash perform The Magnificent Seven, Tom Snyder Show, 1981//
This continues to be recognized by designers: in THE LOOK Hedi Slimane named Simonon a key inspiration in the creation of the “skinny indie” look templated during his Dior Homme years.
As a former skinhead with artistic leanings, Simonon’s stylish selection of sharp shirts, narrow-lapelled suits, brothel creepers, wingtips and broad brimmed Jamaican-style hats brought a crucial visual element to the Clash’s incendiary mix of political bravado and charged musicality.
//Rude boy rock//
As Ben Myers pointed out in his interview with Simonon for online magazine 3AM a couple of years back: “Joe Strummer had the politico credentials, Mick Jones had the Keith Richards flash, swagger and natural musical ability, but Simonon had poise.”
It should be noted that all three key Clash members were very savvy when it came to visuals, having attended art college at one time or another: Strummer undertook a foundation year at Saint Martins in the early 70s, Mick Jones was at Hammersmith for a spell and Simonon was a scholarship attendee at Byam Shaw.
//Simonon on stage//
“The fact that they all attended art schools had an absolute impact on The Clash,” says Chris Salewicz, a close friend of the group and author of the best-selling Joe Strummer biography Redemption Song.
“In many ways The Clash can be seen as a conceptual art school vision of what a rock & roll band is supposed to be and, importantly, how it should look.”
Although it was young art students Alex Michon and Krystyna Kolowska who designed many of the group’s greatest outfits – militaristic and tough, with cowboy and rockabilly flourishes – Simonon was heavily involved in the process of creating The Clash clothes, screen-printing and suggesting ideas as well as adapting and sometimes making his own, as in this netting top which he stitched together himself for an early tour.
//Alex Michon stitching for The Clash (c) A. Michon//
It’s gratifying to witness the recognition of Simonon’s abilities as a visual artist over recent years; THE LOOK quotes a letter Strummer wrote to Michon in 1998 : “As for myself, like all the others, I have found The Clash a hard act to follow.”
But along with Jones, Simonon has now assuredly escaped the shadows of The Clash.
//The Good The Bad & the Queen at Abbey Road 07//
The Good The Bad & The Queen have brought his innate rhythmic skills to a new generation of pop fans while April 17 sees the opening of his first exhibition of new paintings for six years, at the Thomas Williams gallery in central London. The show includes a series of oil paintings interpreting La Corrida bullfighting tournaments as well as a number of still lives depicting objects with elements of religious symbolism.
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